Friday, December 24, 2010

What gift will you give Jesus this Christmas?

What gift will you give Jesus this Christmas? That was a question a friend asked me a week ago. A good question considering that we are all busy buying gifts to give our loved ones this season but do we remember the One whose birthday it is?  What gift do we give Him? I am struck by how easily we can quickly forget the Giver of good gifts. I know my heart is prone to wander as I get caught up in this season of giving gifts to others but do I stop to think what gift I am giving Jesus? We can never out give God and He is no man’s debtor, so what can we possibly give Him? After all, He has everything, He owns the world and all that is in it, He is the Creator of Heaven and Earth. He owns a cattle on a thousand hills, He is sovereign, He omnipresent, omniscient, so what does one possibly give to our Lord! Not an easy question really as we know how hard it is some times to buy gifts for those who are near and dear to us. 

As I ponder this my mind has been reflecting much on Mary during the Advent season. She received a very special gift some 2000 years ago when the angel Gabriel appeared to her proclaiming that she was highly favored and that the Lord was with her (Luke 1:28). The angel said to her: ‘you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”  34And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" 35And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.

God initiated this conversation with Mary. He sent His angel to speak to her to tell her of the gift that was being formed and shaped in her, a gift no less than the Holy Child of Israel, the One who is the Way, The Truth and The Life, The One who is the Bread of Life, The One who is The Light of The World, The One who Is the Good Shepherd, The One who is The Resurrection, The One who is the Alpha & Omega, the One who is the Great I Am and yet the One who is the Lamb of God, The One who came to set us free from sin, The One who came to give us eternal life. What a gift that God was giving to Mary. I wonder how much she really understood about this gift that was being bestowed upon her and in her that would shape and transform the history of the world. This was God’s gift to her, a gift that was surely beyond anything she could ever ask or imagine.

But what was her gift to God? Could she even give Him a gift? Really, here she was a young 17 year old girl, a virgin, what could she possibly give to the Creator of the Universe. Mary’s response is simple and yet profound. Mary said to Gabriel, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38) Mary’s gift to God was simply accepting the word given to her. She believed in her heart and received in faith the promises spoken to her. Jill Carattini, from RZIM ministries writes:  Two thousand years ago, a young girl believed that the promises of God spoken to her were miraculous enough to affect generations to comeBut more than recognizing God's words as true, Mary allowed truth to have its way with her.  Such an orientation may seem irrational to many, but it reflects the beauty of a soul able to stand on a greater rationality. Mary received God and his promises as more than mere words.  She surrendered to God as Savior, allowing her life to be deeply and personally transformed, in both wonder and painThe sacrificial birth of Christ into the world among us brings about some of the loudest knocking ever known to human hears.  The gift of a Son into hands that would harm him presents a most sacrificial gift and a striking invitation to sacrifice everything to have it.  As C.S. Lewis describes, "The Christian way is different: harder and easier.  Christ says, 'Give me all.  I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you—No half-measures are any good.  I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down.  Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent, as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit.  I will give you a new self instead.  I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'"(2) 

To each of us, Christ comes as he came to Mary herself, wanting to stretch us spiritually, physically, emotionally, and socially, taking away everything, even all we might have thought good or godly of ourselves: our good names, our good futures, our innocence.  Mary certainly had reasons to say "No" to the invitation that came to her on angel’s wings.  She was facing an assuring future: a husband to wed, a home to create, a good reputation.  Saying "Yes" to God and the words of the angel Gabriel was to put all of this on the line, everything she had and might have once clung to with good reason.  Could you do the equivalent?  Could you release security, love, reputation, or even your youth from your own determined grasp?  Mary’s risk was no less difficult than the most sacrificial act you could imagine of your own life.  Saying "Yes" to the Christ child and to the knocking of his love will surely bring down the houses we have built, even the rooms that house the things we hold onto most fiercely.  

Yet this is precisely his invitation:  "6For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace"  (Isaiah 9:6).  He comes with the annunciation of great sacrifice and pregnant impossibilities, and he assures us not to be afraid.  Where meek and foolish souls give everything to receive him, they still find themselves the wisest.

So as I think of Mary’s gift, I am reminded that the gift that we can give to Jesus this Christmas is our hearts, our souls, our minds, our everything. Jesus wants it all. He is asking each of us to say ‘yes’ to Him to whatever He is asking us to do or to be. Like Mary, are we willing to say ‘may it be to me according to Your word’ or ‘may your word to me be fulfilled’. Are we willing to believe God and take Him at His word? Are we willing to let God’s word, His truth have its way in us? Like Mary, the gift that we can give to Jesus this Christmas is to believe in His promises, to take His word to heart, to accept His truths, to walk in obedience to His word, to receive whatever He wants to give to us. ----that may not be easy, for these gifts that we may give to Him may come in the form of pain, in loss, in grief, in brokenness but as God gives and takes a way, He never takes Himself a way from us. And so as we celebrate His birth afresh, may we like Mary yield and surrender to His Lordship daily,  may we offer our lives to Him as a living sacrifice as a spiritual act of worship, as we say ‘Yes’ to Him, as we give Him our hearts completely and unreservedly,  may the gift that He unleashes in us lead us into a journey of greater freedom, greater wholeness, greater power, deeper hope, deeper joy, deeper peace and most of all a deeper love for the One whose love toward us is everlasting. After all, the greatest gift that we can give to Jesus is to love Him with all that we have and all that we are!

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